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Women’s History Month: Celebrating Women’s Achievements in Wealth Management

Rashelle Salimi

Vice President, Account Management

Published on

In our second annual Women’s History Month blog post, we again have the privilege to highlight some of the top women in wealth management. Their achievements are inspiring, and their willingness to lift up the next generation of women goes directly to the heart of what we’re celebrating this month. At Addepar, our clients are the best in the industry, and the women we’re showcasing in this blog further illustrate this. 

Read on to learn more about: Kristen Bauer, CEO of Laird Norton; Christine Leong Connors, President & Partner at EPIQ Capital Group; Heidi Davis, Partner & Chief Operating Officer at Mirador; Natasha Kingham, Managing Director, Investment Advisory Integration at Alvarium; and Tanuja Pulakhandam, Advisory Lead, Investment and Wealth Solutions at HSBC Wealth and Personal Banking (WPB). 

Q. You’ve been tremendously successful in your career and are in a position that reflects your expertise and leadership. We’d love to learn more about how you got started and what led you to your current role.

Kristen Bauer, CEO, Laird Norton

My family had a huge impact on who I am. I grew up in Bend, Oregon, and I was a scrappy outdoor kid with an older brother that toughened me up. My grandmother was born in 1912 and spent her life traveling. I was always fascinated by her curiosity, which has fueled me throughout my career. After graduation, I went straight to work at Arthur Andersen, where I met George Russell of Russell Investments. He took a chance on me at 28, and over the next 21 years, I helped set up their family office, build out an impact investing strategy and invited other families to invest over time. 

I joined Laird Norton two years ago as their CEO. It was a great opportunity, but just as important was their vision and focus on helping families utilize wealth as a force for good.

Christine Leong Connors, President & Partner, EPIQ Capital Group:

I grew up at JP Morgan. I joined as an intern, unsure about the world of finance, and ended up working there for 22 years. I worked my way up from intern to analyst and associate, to managing director with different roles along the way but all within the Private Bank, advising clients. I spent the last 10 years of my time there running the Private Bank for Northern California. I always wanted to learn, to become an expert. I also worked hard and was always willing to roll my sleeves up to help get things done. It wasn’t about being the smartest, but a combination of hustle and grit combined with passion. 

I found my passion early on—partnering with and advising people, and being a part of their family and their exciting journey. I am incredibly fortunate that I am able to, after 22 years, continue to pursue my passion and help to build something again with a new, incredible team at EPIQ. It is the passion and the desire to want to continue creating great outcomes for our clients and for EPIQ that drive me daily.

Natasha Kingham, Managing Director, Alvarium

The theme that runs through my career is taking the path less trodden. Straight out of university, I had an offer from one of the big banks to join a graduate program in finance, but I decided to take an offer from a start-up multi-family office instead. It was very early stage—I walked into our serviced office on my first day and plugged in all of our computers. But over the next three years, we built a modern, profitable, scalable business. That experience was formative, and has driven my approach to the rest of my career—focusing on an holistic understanding of the vision, with a clear understanding of the realities of executing a long-term business strategy.

Q. What’s the most impactful way you’ve invested in yourself over the course of your career?

Heidi Davis, Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Mirador

I allow myself time to raise my kids without any guilt associated with that decision. It remains a huge priority for me. I also never panicked about getting back into the workforce because I knew I had valuable skills. I credit my mom for instilling that in me. Also, raising three kids can be hectic which helps with navigating a start-up—there is no typical day, and I always learn something new.

Tanuja Pulakhandam, Advisory Lead, Investment and Wealth Solutions, HSBC Wealth and Personal Banking (WPB):

I have always been very curious about how things work, no matter the task, and I learned how to connect the dots and think bigger picture while also being tactical. This skill set has worked to my benefit. 

In 2019, after many years of working, I took a six-month sabbatical which I highly recommend if you can do it. I took a Python class and a UX design class that was super interesting. And thanks to a friend and ex-colleague’s recommendation, I became part of a start-up incubator program which gave me tremendous insights about building tech businesses into scalable enterprises. I think it’s critical to continue to invest in yourself and ensure you’re learning new things.

Natasha Kingham, Managing Director, Alvarium

Having the confidence to take risks has been key, while backing my ability to learn quickly and be agile in responding to change. Often, men and women are pigeonholed by traditional career paths, and it can seem terrifying to put even a toe out of line. Finding a way to take risks in a calculated manner has allowed me to move my career forwards at the pace and in the direction that suited me best.

Q. What’s the biggest professional obstacle you’ve encountered, and how did you navigate it?

Kristen Bauer, CEO, Laird Norton

Being in male-dominated industries, I had to learn the hard way that my opinion matters. I have an equal voice. Raising kids is also a challenge, and finding that balance. I try to allow for that balance with the women who work at Laird Norton and give them space to be great moms. 

Christine Leong Connors, President & Partner, EPIQ Capital Group:

I did not make Managing Director at JP Morgan one year, which surprised me. The feedback that came with this decision was something I hadn't heard before. I was too demanding, too tough, and tough on others. That feedback and process made me more self-aware as a leader, a peer and a manager. Feedback doesn't always feel great, but it's okay to take it and digest it, and most importantly, to grow from it.

Tanuja Pulakhandam, Advisory Lead, Investment and Wealth Solutions, HSBC Wealth and Personal Banking (WPB):

I’m extremely passionate and very straightforward, and I think that can be misinterpreted. The feedback I got was that it could come across as negative. I thought about what I needed to do to be successful, to get to the next level. I am who I am, but I needed to listen to the feedback. 

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Heidi Davis, Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Mirador

When I first returned to work, I was on a mission to cross everything off my to-do list every day. That’s too much pressure, and it’s unrealistic. Someone told me, “Your to-do list is never going to be finished, so please leave it until tomorrow.” I’m better now about prioritizing my to-do list and delegating. I can be accountable for something, but I don’t have to actually do it. 

Natasha Kingham, Managing Director, Alvarium

A former colleague told me not to fixate on perfecting a particular small process at the expense of the bigger picture. We can get in the way of our own progress by becoming an indispensable cog in the machine, while losing sight of our longer-term career objectives.

Kristen Bauer, CEO, Laird Norton

George Russell gave me two great pieces of advice. He said, “We all serve somebody. You happen to serve me, but I serve somebody else. Let’s serve each other really well.” It’s not about hierarchy; it’s about using our own resources to make a difference in the world. He also said “There is no gray in integrity, only black and white. Let’s operate as though everything we do is featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.”

Q. What advice do you have for the next generation of women in wealth management?

Christine Leong Connors, President & Partner, EPIQ Capital Group:

You can do it, and you can have it all, but be realistic in how you define “all.” There are many women who need to know it’s okay to ask for help, get support and outsource things. Your family and friends should know what you do and that it’s important to you. We all have the same amount of time, 24 hours a day. Find ways to incorporate and manage your time to ensure you have time for yourself and for all of the things that are important to you–it can overlap.  

Natasha Kingham, Managing Director, Alvarium

Become a subject matter expert in a strategy, vertical or sector. I have had roles with multiple different focuses that have all been within the wealth management sector, from portfolio management within an OCIO to standing up a central technology stack and operating model at Alvarium. I have been able to add more value by focusing holistically on one sector and learning everything about it.

Heidi Davis, Partner & Chief Operating Officer

The most important thing is to understand yourself and the environment you’ll thrive in. And know your strengths. I had two offers in investment banking when I started. One was a slightly more prestigious firm but very male-dominated–the other more equally weighted between men and women. I chose that position because I felt most comfortable there, even though I had every confidence I could succeed in either place. 

Tanuja Pulakhandam, Advisory Lead, Investment and Wealth Solutions, HSBC Wealth and Personal Banking (WPB):

There is tremendous potential to grow and excel in wealth management, especially as more women are creating and amassing wealth and have a specific point of view. My advice is to be fearless—don’t let the detractors stop you.

Key takeaways

To the women we interviewed, we appreciate your candor and for taking the time to share your career journeys. Common threads we heard include understanding your personal brand, being willing to take ownership, and the importance of continuing to learn and be curious. These executives have shown great resilience in the face of obstacles and a strong desire to pave the way for other women taking on roles in wealth management and finance. They are risk-takers, fearless, women with grit–and it’s these and other qualities that have made them so successful. 

I want to thank all of our amazing clients, especially these five women, for taking the time to participate in our conversations. It’s an honor to share their stories.